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The Mysterious Legend of the Mongolian Death Worm

Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.

The Mongolian death worm is one of the biggest mysteries of cryptozoology to date.

The Mongolian death worm is one of the biggest mysteries of cryptozoology to date.

The Biggest Mystery of Cryptozoology

The Mongolian death worm is a red, five-foot-long worm armed with spikes, venom, and electric shocks that lurks beneath the sands of the desolate Gobi Desert. And it has been one of the biggest mysteries of cryptozoology since time immemorial.

Called the Olgoï-Khorkhoï in Mongolian, the creature lives in the Gobi Desert, where it feeds on rodents and other small animals. And when it is really hungry, it can kill a camel or a human with two spits of its highly venomous poison.

And unlike other mythical monsters (e.g., the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot), this one really exists, according to Richard Freeman, a cryptozoologist from the UK who specialized in the Mongolian Death Worm.

Richard Freeman talked about the worm after his trip to Mongolia in 2005.

"The worm certainly exists. When we talked to people during our trip to Mongolia, they were all quite certain of that. They didn't believe it could spit electricity, but they did believe it was venomous. They're very afraid of it. I think it's a reptile. It's either an unknown species of worm lizard (related to snakes) or an unknown species of sand boa. Nobody thinks of it as a mythical creature in Mongolia, but a real living animal."

A herd of Bactrian camels in the Hongoryn Els sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park in southern Mongolia

A herd of Bactrian camels in the Hongoryn Els sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park in southern Mongolia

It Inhabits the Desolate Gobi Desert

The Mongolian death worm is said to inhabit the Southern Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

The first scientific reference to the creature comes from the work of Professor Roy Chapman Andrews in his book “On the Trail of Ancient Man” in 1926. As Chapman writes about the mystery surrounding the worm:

“None of those present ever had seen the creature, but they all firmly believed in its existence and described it minutely.”

Fantastical stories abound about the worm in local folklore, with some describing it as having a gaping round mouth filled with inward-pointing teeth. Some also describe it as having a body covered with spikes with the ability to spray a yellow-colored deadly burning acid at a target.

There are also claims it can discharge electricity from its body. The death worms will reportedly shoot up from beneath the sand without warning to kill their food, mainly camels and rodents, but unsuspecting humans can also be the target.

According to Chapman, the worm travels underground and can be spotted by the waves of sand appearing on the desert's surface when it passes. It hibernates for ten months of the year and only emerges during June and July when the ground is wet, and rain is falling from the skies.

Unlike the other mythical monsters like the Loch Ness Monster or the Bigfoot, this one really exists as claimed by Richard Freeman, a cryptozoologist from the UK who specialized in the Mongolian Death Worm.

Unlike the other mythical monsters like the Loch Ness Monster or the Bigfoot, this one really exists as claimed by Richard Freeman, a cryptozoologist from the UK who specialized in the Mongolian Death Worm.

The Worm Continues to Be a Mystery

Chapman’s writings spurred many curious travelers who combed the Gobi Desert to search for the creature. Czech cryptozoologist Ivan Mackerle was one of the foremost investigators of the mysterious animal who traveled to Mongolia three times in search of the worm in 1990, 1992, and 2004.

Mackerle first heard of the death worm as a boy from the work of paleontologist Ivan Yefremov. He became obsessed with it and read extensively through available Mongolian literature to know about it. He was finally granted permission by the Mongolian government to research the same in the Gobi Desert.

In his book "Mongolské záhady" (Mongolian Mystery), he describes the worm as:

"A sausage-like worm over half a meter (20 inches) long and thick as a man's arm, resembling the intestine of cattle. Its skin serves as an exoskeleton, melting whenever hurt. Its tail is short as if cut off but not tapered. It is difficult to tell its head from its tail because it has no visible eyes, nostrils, or mouth.”

While Mackerle's research was extensive, he could not get any concrete evidence of the existence of the worm. Subsequent expeditions to hunt down the sand beast continue even today. Still, without any physical evidence, the story of the Mongolian death worm remains yet another unexplained mystery of the Gobi Desert.

Many theories have sprouted over the years to explain the Mongolian death worm.

Many theories have sprouted over the years to explain the Mongolian death worm.

Many Theories Try to Explain the Worm

Many theories have sprouted over the years to explain the Mongolian death worm.

Some say it is an Amphisbacnidae (worm lizard), which is a species with no external eyes or ears. These creatures also move like a serpent, and many paleontologists have also unearthed some specimens close to the area the Mongolian death worm supposedly inhabits.

Others say it is an unknown species of the common electric eel, which generates powerful electricity and can kill humans. However, no species of electric eel have been found so far that also had poison glands.

Yet another theory says the death worm could be a form of ‘spitting’ cobra that can spits or spray venom at distances over 10 feet. A spitting cobra is well-equipped to spray its painful venom directly into the eyes of potentially dangerous animals from a safe distance.

Perhaps the most fanciful theory is that it is a mysterious animal cultivated by the descendants of the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan to protect his grave from robbers. Yes, Genghis Khan’s grave remains undiscovered somewhere in the Mongolian wilderness.

So far, all searches, including a much-publicized National Geographic Channel series on the worm, have come up empty-handed. Could the Mongolian death worm be nothing but a fanciful legend, or are we yet to discover a new species unheard of by mankind? Only time can answer this question.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Ravi Rajan

Comments

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on February 15, 2021:

it is really scary...

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 15, 2021:

Yes Ann it is scary if the rumors of its existence are proved.

Ann Carr from SW England on February 15, 2021:

This looks and sounds scary. I'm glad I'm not likely to meet one!